CONTESTS

Miracles, Plural

Second prize winner of the 1st Annual Short Long-Distance Writing Contest.

God forbid he’s watching over her at this moment. God forbid he’s taken pains to come watch over her right now and she’s just sitting on her ass on the couch staring at the cereal crumbs stuck in the corner of a notebook. God forbid he’s aware that she got this notebook from the kitchen cupboard that stores their family’s crappy miscellany—candles, shoe polish, jar lids, crumpled road maps of Vancouver Island—and that this is the dirty notebook in which she plans to summarize his life:

The dog wanders around the house trying to find a spot to pee. His bladder is full of stones and he whimpers and forces droplets of piss onto the basement carpet. She’ll take him to the vet the tomorrow and the vet will tell her that he has to cut open Frisco’s bladder and empty it and stitch it back together again. It’ll cost a thousand dollars. She’ll say to him that she can’t swing it, not right away, there is no money now. But it doesn’t matter, because the next day he’ll tell her they can’t operate after all, it’s worse than he thought. She’ll hold the dog while he puts the needle in and she’ll ask, how long will we have now, and he’ll look startled by her naïveté and say to her: quickly.

In Outremont, Oma pays her building’s janitor fifty dollars to drive her to the airport. The janitor guides the old woman to the elevator, to the lobby, to his wide Parisienne. At the airport, she takes an Ativan for her nerves. The funeral is today and this day will be shorter by three hours because of the travel. A small mercy.

There are crumbs—crushed cereal flakes and oats in the notebook’s crease. The daughter uses the lefty pen with the soft, rubber-lined base. Her scrawl tilts to the right, and her vowels become flat lines connecting consonants together, as if her lazy hands are emulating Hebrew or Arabic script and her mind is willing her to guess at these words later on. Much of the text is scratched out—trite phrases and explanation; that Nissim, her father’s name, is the plural of nes, or miracle. Last week, she gave him a small bag of marijuana for pain relief and he rolled the little cigarettes himself and smoked them slowly.

The page is smooth. She pushes harder, etching the words in. Oma’s plane is landing and it’s almost time. Now we have to live without you. She looks up, so that if he can see, he can see her better.

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